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History Post-confederation (1867-)


Stories and Lessons from the Halifax Explosion

by (author) T. Joseph Scanlon

edited by Roger Sarty

Wilfrid Laurier University Press
Initial publish date
Nov 2020
Post-Confederation (1867-), Disasters & Disaster Relief, Emergency Management
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Nov 2020
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Nov 2020
    List Price

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Catastrophe weaves together compelling stories and potent lessons learned from the calamitous Halifax explosion—the worst non-natural disaster in North America before 9/11.

On December 6, 1917, the Canadian city of Halifax, Nova Scotia, was shattered when volatile cargo on the SS Mont-Blanc freighter exploded in the bustling wartime harbour. More than nineteen hundred people were killed and nine thousand injured. Across more than two square kilometres some 1200 homes, factories, schools and churches were obliterated or heavily damaged.

Written from a scholarly perspective but in a journalistic style accessible to the general reader, this book explores how the explosion influenced later emergency planning and disaster theory. Rich in firsthand accounts gathered in decades of research in Canada, the US, the UK, France and Norway, the book examines the disaster from all angles. It delivers an inspiring message: the women and men at “ground zero” responded speedily, courageously, and effectively, fighting fires, rescuing the injured, and sheltering the homeless. The book also shows that the generous assistance that later came from central Canada and the US also brought some unhelpful intrusions by outside authorities. Unable to imagine the horror of the initial crisis, they ignored or even vilified a number of the first responders.

This book will be of particular interest to disaster researchers and emergency planners along with journalists, and scholars of history, Maritime studies, and Canadian studies.


About the authors

T. Joseph Scanlon was an accomplished Canadian journalist who became renowned internationally as a disaster researcher and scholar. He served as president of the International Research Committee and was awarded the Charles Fritz award for a lifetime contribution to the sociology of disaster. He died in May 2015.


T. Joseph Scanlon's profile page

Roger Sarty, history professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, was in previous careers senior historian at the Department of National Defence and deputy director at the Canadian War Museum. His other books on the Canadian Army in the Maritimes include Saint John Fortifications (2003, with Doug Knight) and Guardian of the Gulf: Sydney Cape Breton and the Atlantic Wars (2012, with Brian Tennyson)./p>


Roger Sarty's profile page


  • Winner, Canadian Nautical Research Society Keith Matthews Best Book Award

Other titles by Roger Sarty